Author: Dawn Mitchell
Every fall as the season begins with a burst of vibrant color and shorter days I am grateful that we have changing seasons, not only in our climate but also in our profession. According to research from the New Teacher Center in Santa Cruz, California we as educators can go through different seasons of the year. Typically we begin the year with lots of excitement and anticipation and then with long days and even longer to do lists we can slide into survival mode and to a stage of disillusionment before experiencing some rejuvenation again in the spring semester. One of the most helpful tips that we can provide to you as our new teachers to help avoid and/or shorten this season of survival is to encourage practices that help enhance your daily enjoyment as an educator and your fulfillment in the profession.
One of my favorite resources to share is an infographic by Chris Mumford from Western Governors University titled 10 Ways to Avoid Teacher Burnout
In his Edutopia article, Ten Tips to Avoid Teacher Burnout, Ben Johnson writes, "Rather than provide a list of things to avoid, I would like to take a more proactive stance by sharing things that will help diminish burnout feelings and help you answer, yep, it is worth it. STEP #1) HAVE FUN DAILY WITH YOUR STUDENTS Share jokes, brief stories, puzzles, brain teasers, etc. This keeps it interesting for you and for your students. It only takes a minute, and they are easy to align to the topic of the day. STEP #2) TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH The physical status of your body affects your emotional responses, so never feel guilty about taking care of yourself. Skipping lunch or breakfast are bad ideas. Make sure you get enough sleep each day. Take a rejuvenating micro-nap when you get home. Get some better shoes to put a spring in your step. I used to think that I was an active teacher and did not need exercise, but I realized that I need cardio-vascular and upper body exercise, too. Thirty minutes on a treadmill, two days a week will do wonders. Simple pushups strengthen your abdomen, back, and arms. You will be surprised at how much it helps you not be worn out at the end of the day. STEP #3) LEARN SOMETHING NEW AND SHARE IT WITH YOUR STUDENTS Read an interesting book -- education or non-education related. I have been reading, The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got that Way from Amanda Ripley. It is interesting and education related, so I don't feel guilty about taking time away from lesson planning and grading. Read a classic that you have always wanted to read but never got around to reading. Watch a TED Talk or go to iUniversity and find something interesting about brain research (that's what I like to explore anyway). STEP #4) HELP ANOTHER TEACHER Share your motivating experiences locally or online. Edutopia is always here for that. If you take the time to respond to a blog, you may be surprised at the response. Start your own uplifting blog to help beginning teachers or nearly burned out ones. Be active in your professional organization by volunteering to teach, facilitate, or prepare workshops. Mentor another teacher, either formally or informally. We can all use as much help as we can get. STEP #5) MAKE SOMEONE'S DAY Call a parent and tell them how good their student is. Find a student that is struggling and sincerely compliment him or her on something they are doing well. Show gratitude for an administrator or fellow teacher by giving them an appreciative note, an elbow bump, or a small gift. STEP #6) LIGHTEN UP Smile. Try looking in the mirror, putting on a smile and then try not smiling for real. It is nearly impossible. So try smiling when you do not feel like smiling. When you greet your students at the door, smile at them and a miracle happens: They will smile back. STEP #7) BE A SCIENTIST Experiment with new strategies and become an expert in them. Ask your students to help. Do a control group and an experimental group. Document your results and share them at a faculty meeting or a conference. Celebrate success. STEP #8) LOOK FOR THE POSITIVE Be a voice for positive thinking, even in the staff lounge. It won't change the situations, but you will feel better and others might be uplifted too. While teaching is hard, it is not all bad. Half empty glasses are not nearly as exciting as half full ones. Research tells us that those complaints in the workrooms lead to less collaboration, a reduced quality of work, and greater absenteeism and turnover; whereas, positiving begets more creativity, lower turnover, and an increased willingness to share ideas. Both positivity and negativity are contagious; which do you want to spread? STEP #9) REDECORATE Switch out the bulletin boards, move the desks, and adjust the lighting. Add your favorite smells or be adventurous with new ones. I found interesting ones: rhubarb, teak wood, and Hawaiian breeze (usually spray, or solid.) Check with your schools policy about bringing plug-in oil or scented wax warmers. STEP #10) TRUST STUDENTS MORE Let the students know that you will be trusting them more and give them opportunities to earn your trust. Try some project-based learning. Develop strong rubrics, share them with students, and then let them learn as you facilitate and coach. TURNING THINGS AROUND It seems it is easier to fall into the trap of pessimism and negativity because of all the (okay, I will say it) "garbage" teachers have to endure, but that does not have to be our choice. We can choose our attitude, and choosing to do proactive things like those I listed above will go a long way in helping us keep our sanity and avoiding burnout. What helps you keep plugging away? Please share in the comments section below." I want to encourage you to consider these suggestions this week and choose one or two of these tips to incorporate into your routine to help ensure that this new season of the year and of our profession is one that helps us grow towards spring. Sincerely, Dawn